Becoming a WINNER beyond College
by Howard Freedman
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The value of a college education is just the beginning of a lifelong learning process that is much different than what you may expect. A college education is your foundation regardless of your alma mater or degree. Lifelong learning or experience is what you build on it. Here are some things to look at now and ideas that will carry you into the future.
WINNER is my acronym that describes the basic survival skills that are not typically experienced in a classroom setting. It encompasses the many lessons I learned in business management, consulting and working with families to chart an educational and professional course of action. Being a WINNER is an ongoing process for which young graduates mature into successful adults building and sustaining relationships on a personal and business level while attaining greater financial security in a volatile economy. Here are the ingredients to make you a WINNER!
Writing is one of the most powerful yet misused tools. After years of writing long-term papers and essays, students should learn that brevity and get to the point is a more effective way of getting things done. Whether writing a problem resolution letter, request for a job interview or other action, you must realize that the reader has limited time to determine what you want. Get to the point in the first couple of sentences without getting long winded, too aggressive or threatening. Keep your information factual and end it politely. Be sure to do a thorough spell check and have someone else read it to be sure that you made your point. This is a process that takes time but can easily become a powerful tool for your ongoing success.
Interest has a double meaning. The first is about interest associated with borrowing. Understand how interest is calculated on your credit card and loans. Avoid paying a minimum payment that avoids a finance charge yet keeps high-interest rates accumulating. Check and correct your credit reports to verify your transactions that can have a negative impact on your credit and future employment. Avoid late payments that can destroy your credit score and increase the cost of borrowing. Automate your payments online to avoid mail delays that can result in late payments and added fees. The second meaning of interest is taking interest in others. Avoid using too many “Is” in your conversations. Be sure to relate how you can add value to a company or organization rather than telling a company that you need a job. Also, remember that you are part of a team that is not about one person but the overall interests of the organization as a whole.
Networking is a never-ending process that will build your support system and career growth. Get involved with as many organizations and activities as you can. Network with people at a health club, place of worship, volunteer work and so on. Start conversations by having the other person talk about themselves to break the ice and get to know them. Not all relationships will flourish but keep moving on. Every job and opportunity in my professional career resulted from a networking opportunity and not a help wanted advertisement. It takes many years to build a strong network but well worth the effort.
Negativity … Nobody likes a complainer, whiner or a person that always sees the glass as being half empty. Avoid these people like the plague. It is best to keep your negative thoughts or opinions outside the workplace and to remain neutral and positive above the work environment, keeping your personal problems at home. Talk to right people that can do something about resolving the problem or issue without getting others involved. Remember that constructive feedback that can improve a situation or process is a positive action while complaining is not. Try to become or act more positive to gain greater acceptance, be more productive and gain the respect of others.
Experience … Use your energy in a positive way to take on new responsibilities and challenges to increase your overall value in the workplace. Remain focused, stay on plan and do what you say you will do. Look for ways to develop leadership skills by doing the more public speaking. Clubs like Toastmasters International will help you to improve your communications skills and improve your self-esteem and to articulate your points. Move out of your comfort zone by taking on new responsibilities and challenges even if it means repackaging yourself and your resume. Once a job becomes unchallenging it is time to stretch yourself, move on, get another degree or develop a new part-time career. Remember not to do more than you can handle to prevent burnout.
Results: This is what it is all about. Once you graduate and face many of life’s challenges, the real world is not like taking a final exam or getting good grades. It is not about planning to do, thinking about, or getting around to it. It is about accomplishments, new ideas and giving something back to society in a positive way. There is no reason that you cannot be a WINNER by becoming a better communicator, networker, team player and asset to any organization. Be a wise borrower, save and plan for the future, and never sell yourself short.